Monday, July 24, 2017

Using, Or Being Used By, Social Media

If it isn't shared on social media, did it ever really happen?

If it doesn't get a certain amount of likes, did it really have any value to begin with?

From dinner plates to hotel rooms, family outings to everyday routines - we are documenting everything these days . . .

Pictures and photographs of my grandparents in their younger years are rare and priceless to me because there are so few of them. Those that do exist tell only so much about their lives.

In contrast, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with pictures that people want you to see of them and their rose-colored lives. Only the best shots make the cut and even if someone posts a "negative" picture, I question her motive thinking, "Oh she's just looking for sympathy...."  

I feel my eyes turning that envious shade of green, wishing it could be me at that place, eating that meal or having that experience. On some imaginary scale in my head, I find myself rating me, judging my life and feeling my discontentment grow with each swipe of the screen.

The opposite happens too. When it is my family doing the neat thing, or my husband taking me to the "cool" date spot, or one of my daughters making me feel especially proud, I click away trying to capture just-the-right shot to literally show-off and brag about whatever it is I want to make everyone else feel envious over.

Oh, I justify it in my head, telling myself I am making it "just right" for my "Chatbooks" Scrapbook or to share the memory with family that lives far away, but I still find myself stalking my own postings to see how many "likes" I've gotten. To be totally honest, the more likes, the better I feel about myself.

Studies have been done proving that the same euphoric feelings that arise from having a bunch of "likes" is extremely similar to the endorphins that are released when a person is literally "high." This is part of the reason that social media use is so addicting and dangerous to us all, not just teens. It is why it is so appealing to those of us who struggle with low self-esteem. Social media, in itself, is not "evil" but it can quickly charm the unsuspecting user into cyclical patterns of destructive feelings and even behavior.

There are lots of warnings about what, when and how we allow our kids to take in social media, but when was the last time you took stock on how it was affecting your heart? To be honest, it's been too long for me...

Recently, my husband and I got away for a couple of nights without the kids. We visited some old stomping grounds and spent a lot of time reminiscing about the past while dreaming about the future. About halfway through our time together, we realized we had not taken a single picture. I started to feel bummed about it and how I didn't have any record of this special time together.... not for my own sentimental feelings, but to show everyone on Instagram...

When I realized my motive was to make others jealous, it really made me think... If it isn't documented on social media, did it really happen at all?

Of course it did! I decided then that instead of taking pictures with my phone, I would take mental pictures, treasuring the moments in my heart -not unlike the Gospels tell us Mary did when Jesus was young.... I decided to "be" in those moments, living them as I had them.

If I spend all my time "with" my family behind the camera or on my phone or behind the camera on my phone, then am I really "with" my family? Documenting the moments too often keeps me from living them and other times it tends to give Satan the opportunity of robbing me the joy God intended me to have in those experiences.

When I update my profile picture am I really fishing for compliments, wanting others to tell me how good I look? Or when I share a blog post on my Facebook page, do I really want to share that information or see who agrees with me? Even when I write for this blog I seek others' approval by seeing how many times a post has been read or shared or commented on...

In a recent Bible study, I was challenged to take a break from not just social media, but technology as a whole. I was encouraged to plan the day-long hiatus, clearing it with work obligations, but not posting about it as to make a big, bragging deal about it. While I've not met this challenge yet, it has already challenged my thinking on how social media robs me of so much life and so much joy.

I am not ready to make a broad, sweeping commitment, closing my accounts and logging off certain sites. But, I am ready to not just consume blindly. I am wanting to be aware of the effects of what I am taking in and the motives that are driving me to hit "share."

However, if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram or both, I can assure you this - you can't define me clearly by what you see there. My life is more full and too colorful (the bright, pretty and dull, ugly) to be clearly, fairly or accurately portrayed there.

I hope people who truly call me "friend" and sincerely "like" me already know all of this. I do know that my Jesus does and He is the One who loves me. My salvation in Him is what defines me and gives me the validation that the gods and idols of the internet fail to provide.

Missing the abundant life Jesus came to give? Have you allowed Satan to steal, kill and destroy by sneaking into your mind through a wireless signal?

What are the safeguards you put on your heart and mind when it comes to social media? In what ways are you being intentional to use social media and not let it use you? Please share your insights below....

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I Was Jealous Of Her

I was jealous of her.  And I did not even realize it…until this week.  And it crushed me.  Devastated me.  Hurt me.  My heart is heavy.  The conviction is deep.

I was jealous of her marriage.  Of her speaking ability.  Of her relationship with the Lord.  Of her ministry.  Of her ability to mother well.  All.  Of.  It.  I was jealous.  Envious.  I wanted her life.

We go way back to the mid 1970’s in Texas but I did not meet her until sometime early 2000’s in Tennessee.  Long before I met my husband, Ernie, she and her husband, Doug, worked with him in Young Life in Fort Worth, Texas.  She later told me that she prayed for Ernie to find a Godly wife.  I remember vividly how that affected me….that someone I did not even know was praying for me!  Me!  I had no idea anyone was praying for me….yet she was.  She is a pray-er!

Fast forward to today.  Doug died tragically several years ago….Suddenly.  She has been battling cancer for years and now can barely speak.  As she says in her own words, she is struggling physically.  Emotionally.  Spiritually.

Karen Alexander-Doyle was married to a pastor and wrote for this blog for a season.  I encourage you to go to the the TN PRIME RIB web version, look on the side panel for Karen, Click on it and read her posts.  She is the real deal.  Many of you know her.  You have heard her speak.  You have read her writings.  You know her story.  Her beautiful, tragic, incredible God story.

Her life is all about giving God the glory, praying, serving, encouraging, loving, speaking Truth and giving much joy.

Get on Facebook, go to her page and see/read/hear her current situation.  Pray for her.  Learn from her.  Encourage her.  Be encouraged by her.

She is living proof of 2 Corinthians 4:16:  Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Do I still want her life?  Her suffering is real….but not more real than her relationship with the God of the universe.  What I long for is that same kind of faith and trust and dependence on our Father. 

Father, right now as my sisters read this we pray in one accord with one mind and one heart....we lift up Karen and her family.  Fill them with Your Peace and Your comfort.  We believe You are near to each one of them....may they come to know You as they have never known You before as they walk through these days.  Would You use her story to bring many people to know You and glorify You.  Thank you for using Karen to encourage so many.....would You use many to encourage her.  In Jesus' name....amen!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Help Me Please!!


Help!!  Would you please, please, pretty please help me out?

More than likely you have gone to women’s events.  You know what I’m talking about….those occasions when your church or favorite author or association provides women for spiritual growth or renewal or teaching or fellowship or _______________.  They come in the form of retreats or conferences or lunches or ladies’ days or _______________.

These events will often have a speaker.  Most assuredly it will have food and decorations and centerpieces.  Much of the time there will be worship and/or a solo or two. Sometimes there will be a mission emphasis (so we don’t focus too much on ourselves).  Door prizes are given out amidst much clapping and squealing.  (Or in some instances no one claps or squeals which, to me, is quite odd and so if I happen to be in attendance will encourage said clapping and squealing.)  Some events might even have get-to-know-each-other games or crafts that many of you love and others would rather have a root canal than have to participate.  In fact, maybe you make yourself scarce during those times.

Some of you love to go to these events….and you go as often as your time or budget or schedule or husband or _______________will allow.  Others….you only go because you feel you are obligated to!   You go because it is held at your church or you are the speaker or your best friend begged you to come or _______________. You would rather have a colonoscopy or a hysterectomy than attend such occasions.

I think I might have just gotten off track a little bit.  Back to my need for help!

As a speaker for such events….what suggestions would you give the speaker?  I sincerely, genuinely, maybe even desperately need/want your insights, thoughts, suggestions, likes, dislikes.

I would love to know, from your experience, what worked.  Didn’t work.  What was helpful?  What wasn’t helpful?  What impacts you?  For those of you who are speakers….what insights do you have? 

My desire is for women to know God and glorify Him.  To not simply know about Him but to know Him.  To not “always be learning and never coming to understand the Truth” as the women Paul referred to in 2 Timothy 3 were….or to be “religious but reject the power to be Godly”.  I never want women to come and sit and listen and hear the Word and leave stirred but not changed.

So, please, if you have any input, experiences, insights….I need to know.  I am desperate to know what ministers to you.  PLEASE comment or email me at jgang@aeneas.net. If you leave a comment it will allow others to be helped/strengthened as well.  It also might cause us to ponder why we have the events.

It terrifies me to think of doing any of this without His Power and His leading and His Presence…and I am not asking for your input to replace what He tells me to do….it is just that feedback is good.  It’s helpful.  It is necessary.  And I sense that God wanted me to ask you.  And so you must answer (smile and wink).  And I don’t know why I haven’t asked before!!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Other Girlfriends






Pull out your chocolate stash and sit a minute with me as we continue our discussion on friends. 

Today, I want to pose the question:  “Can you have close friends who are part of your congregation?”



This is a tough question and many people express varying opinions.  Most ministry wives will answer a firm “no” to the question.  However, I have a different perspective.  I believe we can have deep friendships with other women in our churches. 



I was raised by a mom who taught me to always find the good in people.  She set the bar high for me in establishing friendships.  Before they went to be with the Lord, my mom and her best girlfriend shared over 50 years of close friendship.  Therefore, I always want to mirror that relationship.



When seeking a safe friend, one of the first things I do is pray.  I ask for the discernment to know when a woman wants to be my friend simply to get firsthand knowledge of church happenings or whether she will be a true, safe friend.  I can tell you that there have been times when I did not follow the Lord’s leading and I have been burned in friendships. 



Once arriving at a new ministry, the second thing I do is watch and listen to the ladies around me.  I see how they treat one another.  I look for those ladies who always are encouraging and supporting to their friends.  I always want someone who is very real and loves to laugh. 



Once I discover those individuals I ask the Lord again if one of those ladies will be my safe friend.  It is really interesting how God works at times.  Sometimes He does lead me to those ladies but there have been times He takes me in a direction to someone I have not discovered yet. 



Interestingly, in recent moments a woman who is very soft spoken, humble and a deeply committed Christian popped onto my radar.  Over lunch one day she shared her story and I realized we had so many things in common.  Our only difference is that she is sometimes shy.  (I was at one time but once I married into the Lee family my shyness flew out the window).  However, I truly believe the Lord is leading us to develop a true friendship.  I really look forward to see how He works out the details.



Over the years, God has provided a true, safe girlfriend in every congregation we have served.  I have one friendship that is still going after 30 plus years.  I think my mom would be proud.  These ladies have listened to my heart, cried with me, celebrated the joys of life, and held my hand in some very difficult times.  They provide the laughter to my soul and sometimes even supply me with my favorite nerve pill-Peanut M & M’s. 



So yes, dear sisters, I firmly believe we can have close, true friends within our churches.  All you have to do is pray and seek the Lord’s leading.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ministry Girlfriends




A few weeks ago, the topic of friendships arose in my bible study class.  For some reason, the teacher wanted to know if I had close friends.  Silently I voiced, “Well duh!  Of course, I have close friends.  I am a woman and God gave women a need for girlfriends.”  However, I responded to the question, “Yes, I have many close friends who are allowed to be in my inner circle.”   I further reminded the teacher and fellow classmates that even Jesus chose the disciples who were also his friends. However, a couple were allowed to be his closest companions.



This week I want to delve a bit in to my perspective on two areas of friendships-staff wives and congregation wives.  I have touched on this before and there are far more qualified people who have much more knowledge than me on this subject.  Just remember these are my opinions.



First, let me say I wish I could gather all my girlfriends together for a beach trip/chocolate feast.  Alas, time, finances, and schedules restrict the trip.  So, let’s imagine we are all on some white sandy beach with a salty breeze giving us a “I don’t care” hairstyle, and we are munching on coconut M & M’s (that’s the favor for beach trips).



As a pastor’s wife, I am fortunate to have many girlfriends whose husbands are also in the ministry.  We come from different walks of life and vary in age.  We serve in large congregations and very small rural churches.  Some of these ladies are here locally with me and others are scattered across the nation and world. 



Ministry girlfriends understand each other.  We walk the muddy ministry path together.  We get that we have great days and really stinky days.  We know that there are times we need to vent our frustrations to girlfriends who understand.  (Let’s face it, we can’t vent to a church member about another church member).  We celebrate joys.  We cry when one of us hurts.  We hold each other accountable.  We support one another in prayer.  And we laugh . . . a lot!  What is most important to me is that there is no judgment or jealousy.  If one of us is struggling with an un-Christ-like attitude, we simply pray for her and encourage her.  The fact that we serve in different size church does not cause envy because we all know that every church has its good and bad sides.



Like I said earlier, not all my ministry girlfriends are in my church or local.  I have a great relationship with the staff wives at our church.  I always know they are a phone call away.  Many of my girlfriends are in our association.  We fellowship once a month.  There is no agenda.  We simply fellowship and laugh.  These ladies are so encouraging and supportive to one another.  I am able to stay in touch with my long-distance ministry girlfriends by phone, text, or social media.  Just getting a simple “how are you doing?” from one of them brightens my day.  Here in Arkansas, our convention has a private Facebook page for the wives.  We can share prayer request, joys and even vent some. 



It’s funny but I have two ministry girlfriends-one here in Arkansas and one in Tennessee-and we are constantly texting one another.  We do not see each other often so texting is our mode of communication most of the time.  We check up on one another, solicit godly advice, and share funny things that have happened.  I truly love these two ladies.



Let’s face it, ministry is extremely hard.  We are facing a day when people do not want anything to do with the local church or sound biblical teaching.  As a result, our husbands get discouraged and need our support.  That in turn leaves us needing a safe place for encouragement and uplifting.  My ministry girlfriends provide a place of safety.  They are my encouragement.  They provide godly wisdom on dark days.  They laugh and cry with me.   They are true God given friends!

.  How about you?  Share with us how your ministry girlfriends encourage and support you.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

True Freedom

Happy Independence Day!


My sisters, I hope that you all have a wonderful, restful day filled with good food, family gatherings, and time away from the normal routines of life. Each year on this date, July 4, we celebrate the birthday of our nation, a time when the thirteen original colonies declared their independence from England. It was a time of rejoicing over 240 years ago, and it is still a time of rejoicing today as we recall the price that was paid to set our nation free!

As I thought about writing this blog, I called to mind another event, the MOST SIGNIFICANT event in all of human history. This event happened over 2,000 years ago: One Man, the God Man, gave up His life to gain freedom, not for Himself, but for all the world who lived under the oppression and bondage of the Enemy, Satan. Victory was gained those many years ago, and it is still being celebrated today. This glorious news is that Jesus Christ, our Savior, gave His life on the cross, took the penalty of sin upon Himself, so all who trusted in Him for the forgiveness of sin would be free from its hold and the punishment it brings. Hallelujah!

Yes, our Savior died for us, but was raised from the dead, for death could not hold Him, and we who have trusted Him as Savior will experience eternal life in a beautiful, awesome (words cannot adequately describe) place called heaven. Wow, that’s something to truly celebrate and rejoice over!!

To me true independence came when Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior. I am free from the power of sin in my life, and He paid the precious price for the penalty of sin. What about you? Do you rejoice in the new life that is found only in Jesus?

As we go through this day remember that true freedom is found in Christ……”So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Friday, June 30, 2017

WOW.....

School was out one month ago.  School will start back the last day of July.  Where did the summer go?

I've already mentioned about the two "vacations"...VBS and two deaths.....................

Add to that...........a suicide, another death, an attempted suicide, a total kitchen remodel.....with new cabinets and the works and....MORE.

There is NO TELLING what else I will have to blog to you in five weeks!

Ladies.....have a nice day and I will check back with you in five weeks.